Thursday, 28 August 2014

Monar Mountains, Aug'14

John was leading a 3-day trip on the Munros in remote Monar. The first two days started and finished cycling on fine tracks, the final day was a relaxed walk up little Moruisg. Here's his tale of the weekend....

The forecast may have been for unseasonably cold weather for August, but on the whole it was dry, (and improving over the weekend), so it was with optimism our group set off from Attadale Gardens for the ride into the depths of the West Monar area.

It would be fair to say that neither John, Susan, Chris nor Diane had any off-road cycling experience, so the steep track over past Loch an Droighinn tested them a little, and a good deal of pushing was required. At least that gave the opportunity to identify the loose wheels on certain folks’ bikes! I promised them it would all be worth it for the return journey, which of course it was.

Lurg Mhor and Bidean a’Coire Sheasgaich came into view as we reached the high point of the track, and it was a nice free-wheel down over the delightful bridge to Bendronaig bothy, where we stashed the bikes and had a bite to eat.

The route to the hills follows the Allt Coire Calavie from the shores of the loch of the same name, but I have never been able to find a path, so I like to bear off up the SW spur and past the lochan onto the summit of Lurg Mhor. The team made short work of this, and we were surprised to see several large parties on both summits and in between, these being such remote Munros. “Like Sauchiehall Street” said someone as we passed them – I suppose it was a Bank Holiday in England.

We returned to the bealach and ascended ‘Cheesecake’ (as it is often affectionately known), where the views were absolutely fabulous. The clouds added to the atmosphere, and the blues, greys and whites were enhanced by the clear, cold air; quite unusual for August. We could see from Ben Nevis, past Knoydart, Rum, Eigg, Skye, Applecross, Torridon and onwards Eastwards past An Teallach and the Deargs and beyond. John was particularly pleased, as it was his penultimate munro.

After more photos and high-fives, we returned to the bealach and a rapid descent to Bendronaig. Back on the bikes, the push back up to the col was soon forgotten as we pedalled the last few kilometres back to Attadale in the evening sun. A couple of the team even had a go at proper ‘down-hilling’ on the bikes, standing back on the pedals. In fact someone (whom shall remain anonymous) got so confident, they went for it so much that they over-cooked a corner and had a wee get-off (as the MBKers say!), but no harm was done.

Sunday morning was beautiful and fresh, and the team met at Achnashellach car park for an ascent of Sgurrs Coinnich and a’Chaorachain, and possibly Maoile Lunndaidh. John had returned home, satisfied with his lot, and we were joined by Mhairi. Unfortunately, on the steep initial cycle, her chain and derailleur parted company terminally, and it meant a push to the top. This was better than leaving it however, as she could always free-wheel all the way back. 

We had fun getting across the improbably thin wire bridge, and cut the corner onto the excellent path up to the Bealach Bearnais. After a stop for a bite to eat, we steadily summitted the two Sgurrs, again having excellent views. Maoile Lunndaidh looked a long way off, but despite the ladies having met a rather presumptuous group who had said in a condescending fashion “oh no, you’ll be lucky to get one munro done today, let alone three”, we set off ever Eastwards. The going was easy, and the midges prevented too long a rest as we picked our way up from Drochaid Mhuilich, so we were soon peering down into the spectacular Fuar-tholl Mor. I had only seen it in winter before, and it was beautiful in the sunlight. We were on the summit by 17:00, exactly predicted by Mhairi, and even Susan had to admit this was the highest point on the flat top of that hill!

The descent was made easier by the views back up the coire, some lovely wee waterfalls, and even a rainbow as the sky blackened. Gladly it didn’t rain over us, and we kept up a smart pace to out run the wee flying varmints that were making themselves felt again. A chap we met at Glenuaig bothy must have had the best of DDT, as he sat in swarms of them, apparently impervious!

We were back to the cars at 20:15, not a bad time given the size of the route, and even the most timid of cyclists found the free-wheel back enjoyable. “Will be lucky to get one Munro” indeed!!!!

That only left one client and one morning left. It dawned bright and just above freezing, (as I could testify from my tent...brrrr!). Diane and I took Route One straight up Moruisg, where there is a slightly more distinct path than I remembered due to the new deer fence. The views from the summit were simply stunning, but the 40mph+ bitter SE wind meant we didn’t linger. We may have gone along to poor old demoted Sgurr nan Ceannaichean if the wind hadn’t been so cold, but instead settled for our munro haul of 6 for the weekend, and set off down for a half-day cuppa.

A very satisfying long weekend, and lovely to be out in such good company, and in dry weather at last.

More photos are up on a Flickr album.